African American Plantation Life. Thematic Issues in Plantation Archaeology. Atlantic African Diaspora Differences between lives of the enslaved vs. lives of free blacks African-American identity The effects of racism Segregation & separate institutions Accommodation & resistance
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Thematic Issues in Plantation Archaeology • Atlantic African Diaspora • Differences between lives of the enslaved vs. lives of free blacks • African-American identity • The effects of racism • Segregation & separate institutions • Accommodation & resistance • Routes to obtaining full US citizenship • Consumption & consumer Choice
Archaeology of Slavery • in the US southern colonies & Caribbean, slavery closely linked to the phenomenon of the plantation • earliest work on slave sites in North American historical archaeology initiated by Charles Fairbanks in 1968, with the following themes: • Evidence of daily life & survival (diet, housing, etc.) • Search for cultural retentions = Africanisms?
Plantation archaeology: a few key published sites • Kingsley Plantation, Florida • Cannon’s Point, Simon’s Island, Georgia • Butler Island, Georgia • Carter’s Grove, Virginia • Kingsmill Plantations, Virginia • Rich Neck, Virginia • Monticello, Virginia • Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage, Tennessee
Chronological development - 1970s and 80s • Charles Fairbanks – Pioneering work on plantation sites in coastal Georgia (and Florida) from late 1960s (Fairbanks was at University of Florida) • South Carolina contract archaeology from mid-1970s developed new approaches and applied pattern recognition to plantation sites. • In addition, Leyland Ferguson’s study of locally made (S Carolina) colono earthen-wares very influential (1977) • Virginia lots of work done on early colonial sites and the big houses of planters. • deposits of enslaved men and women were looked at to interpret their lives behind the ‘big house’ (Ivor Noel Hume - Colonial Williamsburg ) • from mid 1970s studies specifically looked at slavery (Bill Kelso’s work in Kingsmill, Virginia, etc)
Plantation archaeology laid the foundations of African-American archaeology and continues to give it direction; most understandings of African-American life are still derived from plantation studies The initial intentional studies had two purposes: to provide information on the daily lives or living conditions of enslaved African Americans missing from histories to examine how African heritage influenced African-American culture Slavery and Plantation Archaeology
Generally one of two approaches: How did the economic function of the plantation organize plantation work? - how did cash crop requirements or labour arrangements structure the lives of slaves ? - how did slaves have access to material possessions and provide food and other items for themselves? (see Singleton, Orser) How did economic structure of plantation shape social structures and class relations ? Frameworks for Plantation Archaeology
A third approach more may be termed theCulturalist framework. This attempts to looks at plantation social relations beyond purely economic considerations. Plantation life is defined as a complex of shared experiences formed from the forced interactions of planters and labourers from different cultural traditions looking at interplay of planter domination and resistance Some researchers focus on perceived African continuities – house forms, ceramic forms and use, ritual Others study the process of creolization – a process of multicultural exchange and interaction Frameworks for Plantation Archaeology
The Myth of the Negro PastMelville J. Herskovits (1895 – 1963) Herskovits was a pioneer in Black studies who with his 1941 work, The Myth of the Negro Past (1990), almost single-handedly dismantled the long-standing belief that people of African descent did not retain any remnants of African culture or beliefs. These cultural retentions were termed by Herskovits to be "Africanisms.”
Kingsley Plantation, Florida, 1814-1900 Charles Fairbanks excavated at the Kingsley Plantation in Duval County, Florida in 1968. This had been a slave training centre; he hoped to find “Africanisms” but was not sure what to expect
Kingsley Plantation, Florida Recent work, 2006-07
Charles Fairbanks (1984:2): "Kingsley had been a slave importer, with perhaps an unusually permissive attitude towards his charges. I had done what appeared to be an adequate amount of research to establish a number of things that I hoped to demonstrate. Among these were the search for Africanisms among the material artifacts of those newly arrived slaves, evidence of adaptation in housing, dress, behavior to the new situation, and data on lifestyle...... No evidence of Africanisms was found, even though we were digging in the structures of an unusually permissive slave owner, dealing with newly imported slaves. Belatedly realizing that the slaves came naked and in chains, I still could not understand why they did not recreate some African artifacts."
Cannon’s Point Plantation (1794-1860) • St Simon’s Island, Georgia Cannon’s Point Plantation, Georgia
Cannon’s Point Plantation, Georgia John Otto (a Fairbanks PhD student) excavated at Cannon’s Point • Instead of looking for residual ‘Africanisms’ he looked for evidence of status differences • ceramics found at sites associated with slave, overseer, & master
Millwood Plantation, Abbeville, South Carolina • Charles Orser used a Marxian framework to look at post-bellum tenant occupation at, where he identified five classes of plantation occupants : • landlord, millwright, tenant, servant, and wage labourer. • Orser concluded that material differences between tenure groups were not based entirely upon ethnicity or race but upon one’s position in the plantation hierarchy
Colono Ware Leland G. Ferguson Originally defined by Ivor Noel Hume (1962) as Colono-Indian wares; now believed to have been produced by enslaved Africans “one of the most visible aspects of African American culture in Colonial America” (Joseph 1993)
Some colono-ware was made into European-styled forms including cups, chamber pots, pitchers, porringers, and pipkins; Ivor Noel Hume suggested that Indians made them to be traded with English settlers. Another category may be similar to forms important in West Africa. The social meaning of colonowares was investigated by Ferguson (Ferguson, 1989 1991) Crosses found on pots related to Kongo religion and the making of minkisi or sacred medicines – Congo-Angolan peoples also associated the pots with water; many have been found in water.
Butler Plantation, Georgia • Theresa Singleton’s undertook PhD research on Butler Plantation • Examined treatment of slaves at plantation infirmary • Found evidence for self-medication, and care
Theresa Singleton • Current research in Ghana and Cuba • Advocates Afro-centric perspective on the archaeology of the African Diaspora • Notes that Fairbanks’ early efforts constituted a “moral mission” to remedy gaps in our knowledge • Observes that contemporary archaeologists of the African Diaspora are more interested in social action • Concern for descendant groups • Interested in getting more African-Americans involved in historical archaeology
Carter’s Grove, Williamsburg, Virginia Carter's Grove is a 750 acre site located on the north shore of the James River. The plantation was built for Carter Burwell and was completed in 1755.
Carter’s Grove, Williamsburg, Virginia Social contestation – reflecting desire to control people and or landscapes. House near the fields and overseerers houses to watch over slave quarters
Carter’s Grove, Williamsburg, Virginia Carter’s Grove, slaves converted back windows into doors, providing access to common enclosed area within, shielded from view by the cabins (Epperson 1990a:34)
Kingsmill Plantation The Utopia Quarter at Kingsmill
Root cellars of storage pits have interested many scholars Especially prevalent in Virginia (Carter’s Grove, and Kingsmill, and Monticello) Usually 2 x 3ft to 5 x 8ft and 2-4 ft deep. Not found in Georgia (with 1 possible exception) and South Carolina Is this African derived – or slaves making their own spaces – or hiding things? Not a mark of ethnicity, but of status within plantation, with a variety of uses Sub-floor pits
Rich Neck Plantation Maria Franklin Interested in development of Afro-Virginian culture. Particular interest in gender issues, women, children, foodways, spiritual beliefs. Advocates an African feminist perspective
Rich Neck was one of the founding plantations of Middle Plantation, preceding Williamsburg. Rich Neck’s architectural sophistication set it apart from nearly all of its colonial neighbours. Started in 1636 by Richard Kemp, the Secretary of the Colony, the plantation grew to over 4,000 acres in size by the mid-seventeenth century. Richard Kemp and his wife Elizabeth built two structures entirely in brick, a rarity in 1640s Virginia. Rich Neck Plantation Brick-built houses
Slave quarters Biomass measures reveal that over 3/4 of the potential meat at the site would have come from cattle, pigs, sheep/goat, and unidentifiable large and medium mammals, with cattle forming the largest share. Similar rankings were suggested by the meat weight calculations. Rich Neck Plantation
"My opinion has ever been that, until more can be done for them, we should endeavor, with those whom fortune has thrown on our hands, to feed and clothe them well, protect them from ill usage, require such reasonable labor only as is performed voluntarily by freemen, and be led by no repugnancies to abdicate them, and our duties to them." --Thomas Jefferson, 1814 Monticello,Virginia
Slave dwellings – Mulberry Row Five log dwellings for slaves were located on Mulberry Row in 1796. The Mulberry Row cabins were occupied mainly by household servants -- women who did the cooking, washing, house cleaning, sewing, and child tending. The log cabins range in size from 12'x14' to 12'x20 1/2', with earth floors and wooden chimneys. Archaeological excavations at these sites uncovered the cabin foundations, small brick-lined root cellars (in which slaves stored food and kept personal possessions), and thousands of discarded artifacts.
Monticello Evidence for four or more architectural phases, spanning the 18th -19th centuries. Two of these phases clearly date to Jefferson's tenure. They are represented by the remains of the "Negro Quarter," built in the 1770s and by the traces of Buildings r, s, and t, dating to the 1790s.
Initially Jackson operated this cotton farm with nine African-American slaves, but this number gradually grew to forty-four slaves by 1820. Jackson rapidly converted the farm into a prosperous 1,000-acre plantation and supervised the construction of many outbuildings, including a distillery, dairy, carriage shelter, cotton gin and press, and slave cabins at the field quarters. Jackson typically grew two hundred acres of cotton as his cash crop with the remainder of the farm dedicated to producing food stuffs for the for the Jacksons, their slaves, and livestock. Jackson also used part of The Hermitage for his true passion in life, raising racehorses. Andrew and Rachel lived in the log farmhouse until the winter of 1820-1821. . Andrew Jackson died on June 8, 1845 From Jackson’s letters, maps, and other documents Hermitage archaeologists know that there were at least one hundred buildings and structures on the Hermitage Property during Jackson’s life. While some of these buildings have been found, most have not. Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Jackson built a Federal- style, two-story brick dwelling for his family between 1819 to 1821, and lived there from 1837, after retiring from the U.S. Presidency.
Andrew Jackson’s Hermitage Slave cabins at The Hermitage were a standard 20-foot square cabin for each family unit. Most were constructed of brick, but some were log.
Archaeology of African Slavery - trends Move away from the archaeology of the “Great House of the Big Man” To the exploration of the lives of the “Big Man’s” slaves archaeologists see evidence humane treatment by masters Evidence commonly found: catted chimneys root cellars (sub-floor pits) Colono ware
Emerging themes • Atlantic African diaspora • Resistance • Cultural resiliency/creolization • Expressed through syncretism: • in dress • incorporate symbolism w/dress provided by slave masters • religious syncretism • recognizing elements of African foodways & food preparation techniques • examining traditional medical practice & hygiene • oral discourse - tales, songs, etc.
Key points • Fairbanks initiated a new area of research interest when he began excavating slave sites • Initial interest in “filling in gaps” and answering “what” questions have shifted to “why” and “how” questions and towards social action • African-American archaeology now one of the most vibrant areas of research in historical archaeology & now includes many archaeologists of African descent